These weeknight mini feasts have turned into a bit of a ritual between my girlfriend and I. We dash off to the market immediately after work, pulling the few things we need into our basket, and head to my house to make cocktails, bash together a meal, catch up over some long-overdue chitchat, and totally destroy the kitchen. This menu du jour was incredibly simple and because we’re in the dead of summer I wanted very minimal cooking time. The heirloom tomatoes over charred baguette is something I make on a weekly basis. In fact, I could live on this, and probably will until tomato season ends.
A simple cold soup made with fresh mint and peas, heirloom tomatoes poured with their juices over baguette charred on the stove top, and herb marinated chicken breasts, served alongside amazingly refreshing cocktails infused with a homemade thyme simple syrup, fresh lemon juice and gin—overall, the tastes of summer prepared incredibly simply, nothing more, nothing less.
Chilled Pea & Mint Soup
Yields 8 cups
Adapted from Gourmet, June 1999 and reprinted here
- 2 small shallots, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 pounds frozen peas
- 5 cups low sodium chicken stock
- 1 cup packed fresh mint leaves
- plain yogurt and chopped chives to serve
Finely chop shallots. In a 4-quart heavy saucepan cook shallots in olive oil with salt to taste over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened. Add peas and 3 cups stock and simmer, uncovered, until peas are tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in mint and remaining 2 cups stock and remove pan from heat. In a blender, or with an immersion blender, purée soup until very smooth (use caution when blending hot liquids). Season with salt and pepper to taste. If serving soup cold, chill, covered. If serving soup hot, reheat but do not let boil. Serve with a dollop of plain yogurt and freshly snipped chives.
Herb Marinated Chicken Breasts
Yields 4 servings
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for sautéing chicken
- Juice from half a lemon
- 4 garlic cloves, grated or minced
- 1 tablespoon each of fresh rosemary, thyme, and oregano (feel free to use whatever fresh herbs you have on hand)
- Generous sprinkling of sea salt and black pepper
Place chicken breasts in large shallow baking dish in a single layer, or into a gallon size zip top plastic bag and season with salt and pepper. Into a medium sized bowl, pour the extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice, the grated or minced garlic, chopped fresh herbs, and salt and pepper. Give everything a good stir to combine and pour over seasoned chicken breasts. Give the chicken a good turn to evenly coat the meat with the garlicky, herb marinade. Place in the fridge for at least a half hour, or up to overnight.
Heat a grill pan or skillet with two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Add the chicken breasts and cook until cooked through. Serve with wedges of lemon to squeeze over.
Heirloom Tomatoes with Charred Baguette
Yields enough for four tomato lovers
- 3 large heirloom tomatoes, different varies, roughly chopped
- Half a pint of cherry, or grape tomatoes cut in half
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- Sea Salt
- 1 baguette, sliced
Add chopped tomatoes to a large bowl and pour over the olive oil and liberally season with sea salt. Using clean hands squish the tomatoes to help release their juices.
Meanwhile, add enough olive oil to a large skillet or on a grill pan and heat. Add the bread slices and turn once toasted (you might need to add extra olive oil, as the bread will act as a sponge and absorb much of it). When both sides are toasted season bread liberally with sea salt and spoon tomato mixture with juice over the top. Serve up immediately.
Lemon Thyme Gin Sparklers
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 tablespoons fresh thyme
- Juice from one lemon
- Club soda or tonic water
Make a simple syrup by bringing water, sugar, and fresh thyme to a simmer in a small saucepan. Let simmer for a few minutes then remove from heat and let infuse for 10 minutes. Strain into a jar.
For each drink combine 2 tablespoons gin, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, 2 teaspoons of thyme simple syrup in a small glass. Stir well, and add 4-5 ice cubes and top with about 3 tablespoons of club soda or tonic water.